Sean Buckles And Karen Zhang Win BC Bantam Titles, Bryan Lee Wins Novice Boys At Two Eagles In West Kelowna

 From Left, Karen Zhang Won The Bc Bantam Girls And Sean Buckles Won The Bc Bantam Boys At Two Eagles On Tuesday - Image Credit Alfie Lau

by Alfie Lau

The final British Columbia Golf tournament of the year saw Sean Buckles and Karen Zhang crowned as BC Bantam champions, while Bryan Lee earned the BC Novice Boys title at Two Eagles Golf Course and Academy in West Kelowna.

The 36-hole tournament was played under grey skies, as winds carried smoke from American wildfires into the Okanagan.

On the boy’s side, 14-year-old Buckles of Seymour Golf & Country Club broke out of a pack of five players who started the day as co-leaders at (+1) 66 to win the Bantam Boys title by two strokes over Jeevan Sihota of Gorge Vale Golf Club.

Buckles was one of only two boys to break par in the final round, as his (-1) 64 got him to even par 130 for the tournament. Sihota finished with another (+1) 66 to finish at (+2) 132, while Royal Colwood’s Nolan Thoroughgood shot the low round of the tournament, a (-2) round of 63 to finish third at (+3) 133.

The tournament was decided on the 174-yard par-3 17th, where Buckles hit a gorgeous 8-iron to five feet, canning the birdie putt to take the lead. Sihota, playing in the same group, had to hit 5-iron, where he could only make bogey. “I knew it was close coming down the stretch and I was nervous on that tee, but I just focused and hit the shot,” said Buckles. “I stuffed it, so I was pretty happy.”

Sihota, only 11, said he was pleased he hung on for a runner-up finish. “I was right in it until the last hole,” said Sihota. “Sean played great today and he deserves to win this. I’m happy for him.”

Thoroughgood made a spirited run, including four birdies on his front nine. But overswinging on the 10th hole led to a double bogey, which derailed the Victoria native’s charge.

“I knew I had to go really low, maybe (-4) and I got it to that after nine,” said Thoroughgood. “My ball striking was pretty good, hitting it to five and six feet on the front, but the double on 10 really hurt me.”

Buckles’ name now goes on the Harry White Trophy, which he knows is very significant. “I know Adam Svensson won this and I saw him on TV playing the Canadian Open and I know Eugene Wong’s name is on it, so yes, I know it is pretty special,” said Buckles. “I’m also pretty happy that Bryan (Lee from Seymour) won the Novice boys. We’re taking some trophies back to our club and our coach Colin (Lavers).”

Michael Crisologo of Marine Drive GC finished fourth at (+5) 135.

Past winners of the BC Bantam Boys Championship include Eugene Wong, who won three straight titles from 2002-2004; Adam Svensson, who won back-to-back in 2006-07; Kevin Kwon in 2008; Jordan Lu in 2010; AJ Ewart in 2011; Roy Kang in 2013; and Andrew Spalti in 2014.

On the girl’s side, Karen Zhang of Quilchena Golf & Country Club shot a (+1) round of 66 to go with her opening round (-2) 63 to finish at (-1) 129 for the tournament. Zhang had entered the final round with a one stroke cushion over Victoria’s Akari Hayashi, but Hayashi couldn’t make up any ground, making no birdies on the day en route to a (+2) round of 67 and (+1) 131 for the tournament.

Claire Lovan of Eaglequest Coyote Creek and Julie Ju of Seymour Golf & Country Club finished T3 at (+3) 133. “I am excited to win this title,” said Zhang. “I hit a lot of good approaches today and I missed some putts, but I’m happy I held on.”

Zhang started out hot, with back-to-back birdies at 2 and 3 before a bogey on the fifth left at (-1) 31 for the front nine. She would shoot (+2) 35 on her back 9, but that was still enough to hold on for victory.

image credit alfie lau

James Lee Won The Bronze Medal In The BC Novice Boys, Bryan Lee Won The Bc Novice Boys And Sean Buckles Won The BC Bantam Boys Championship At Two Eagles. All Three Are Junior Members At Seymour Golf & Country Club, Working Under Colin Lavers

Hayashi, 12, couldn’t get anything going at all on the front nine, making a bogey on the fifth to finish the front nine at (+1) 33. It wasn’t much better on her back, as the youngster lamented her lost opportunities.

“I’m so sad I didn’t make any birdies today,” said Hayashi. “I did have a lot of fun playing with Karen and I cheered for her to win because it’s her last Bantam and she played so well.”

Zhang said she appreciated Hayashi’s support. “It was really comfortable playing with Akari,” said Zhang. “She’s really nice and we talked a lot on the course and that made it really comfortable for me. I really enjoy playing with her.”

Best of all for Zhang, she now gets to proudly show off her Titleist 2015 Champion’s bag. “That’s a pretty nice prize to get,” said Zhang. “I’m pretty happy.”

Past winners of the BC Bantam Girls Championship include Jessica Wallace in 2003; Sue Kim, who won in 2004 and 2005; Anica Yoo in 2006; Jisoo Keel in 2007; Alix Kong in 2008 and 2009; Naomi Ko in 2011; Kathrine Chan in 2012; Alisha Lau in 2013; and Euna Han in 2014.

Novice Championships

The Novice division was added to the Bantam in 2014 for competitors with less experience in provincial competition.

Bryan Lee of Seymour Golf & Country Club finished with three birdies and 45 points in the Stableford scoring system during the final round to win the Novice Championships by seven points over Xander Bankes of Rossland.

“I’m pretty excited right now,” said Lee. “This is the first big win for me and the first British Columbia Golf tournament I’ve played in. I’m glad I pulled it out at the end.”

Lee admitted to playing a nervous front nine as he nursed a five-point lead from the first round into the final round. “I made a quadruple bogey and after that, I calmed down,” said Lee. “I didn’t come in with a lot of confidence but I’m leaving with a lot of confidence.”

Lee finished in style, canning a 30-foot birdie putt on the last hole to win going away.

James Lee of Seymour finished third with 84 points.

The 2016 BC Bantam and Novice Championships will be contested at the Bowen Island Golf Course next August.

For full results from Two Eagles, please click here